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Sexed semen: historical impact and future opportunity

Sexed semen: historical impact and future opportunity

TL;DR:

  • Nearly 20 years of commercial sexed-semen use.
  • The "beef-on-dairy" matings, dairy cows bred with beef semen, have increased in popularity.
  • The beef industry has an opportunity to simultaneously select for improvements in female fertility and male feedlot performance.

What you need to know: We are nearing 20 years of commercial sexed-semen availability, and it is time to look back on what it has done for the cattle industry–both the beef and dairy industries. Combining these two industries in this section is especially relevant because of how intertwined sexed semen has made them since its inception (or conception?).

The "beef-on-dairy" matings, dairy cows bred with beef semen, have increased in popularity over the past 20 years. These breedings programs involve using female-sexed-semen on younger and higher-quality females to get high-quality replacement heifers, and unsexed-beef-semen for the older and less "relevant" cows to produce the beef-on-dairy calves.

The benefits: all semen ensured cows are pregnant and lactate, female genetics are quickly improved, fewer unneeded dairy bulls and heifers produced, and beef calves derive additional value when entering the feedlots.

There are many other uses for sexed-semen in the beef industry, with the most prominent use-case being male-sexed-semen. Bulls can be worth twice the value of their heifer counterparts in purebred operations–driving interest in using this technology when performing in-vitro fertilization to increase the number of bulls born each season.

Another hypothetical opportunity is the ability to simultaneously select for improvements in female fertility and male feedlot performance. This can be done by choosing matings based on the predetermined calf sex, for instance, selecting the sire specifically for the offspring's purpose (breeding or feeding).  

Industry Application: Sexed-semen premiums have been decreasing over the years, and the pregnancy rate has increased. These combined factors open the door for opportunities, like selecting matings based on goals, like growth for sexed-semen-sired bull calves, and fertility for sexed-semen-sired heifers.

Read more about it: Applications and world-wide use of sexed semen in cattle.